As I listened to the incoming UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, I was proud to be an LSU graduate.
I learned from my family. Mr. President elect, thank you for those generous words that you said about me. My parents had very little back in Louisiana where I grew up, but they gave me and my siblings everything they had and I know how proud they would be of this day. On this day, I’m also missing my mentor, Ambassador Ed Perkins, who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George HW Bush and President Clinton. And who was also from Louisiana. He told me constantly, “Linda, don’t undersell yourself.” And he would always do everything possible to lift me up.
He passed away last week, but I know he’s here with us today. And on this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you, “America is back, multi-lateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.” Mr. President elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal, and that’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground. And in my 35 years in the foreign service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. I called that gumbo diplomacy.
Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux and chop onions for the Holy Trinity and make homemade gumbo. It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana. That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face, a global pandemic, a global economy, a global climate change crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice are unrelenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way. Thank you.
I come from a food-oriented family and live in a food-oriented city, so this was a perfect message for this season. It’s also a refreshing antidote to the nonsense spouted for four years by Team Trump on the foreign policy side. To paraphrase Gordon Ramsey, isolationism can piss off out of my kitchen.
The entire Biden event was a refreshing antidote to the weeks of crazy following the election. The grown-ups are back in charge. Imagine appointing people on the basis of their qualifications, not on how they look. That’s what gave us the Exxon CEO as Secretary of State and he was by no means the worst appointee. He did, however, provide me with Tea for the Tillerson puns so it wasn’t all bad.
Speaking of puns, I’ve heard before that the incoming Secretary of State is a fellow punster. He certainly has a punworthy name: Blinken. I hope he does the pun community proud and doesn’t get in too much trouble with the media for having a sense of humor. It will be a refreshing change from the ponderous pomposity of Pompeo.
The appointment that pleased me the most was that of John Kerry as the climate guy. Appointing someone who’s an equal is a sign that Joe Biden is comfortable in his own skin and that the incoming president is serious about climate change, which is some serious shit.
Team Biden has a mess to clean up but it’s what Democratic presidents do. The magnitude of Team Trump’s corruption and incompetence makes it an even bigger challenge but most of it is reversible. Repeat after me: help is on the way.
Back to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. She’s from Baker, Louisiana, which is right next to Red Stick, but I won’t hold that against her. I eagerly await the inevitable “she’ll be good for Louisiana” pieces from the Gret Stet punditocracy. In this case, they might be right. She does present a refreshing stylistic contrast to the cornpone shtick of our fake hick junior Senator, John Neely Kennedy.
The last word goes to Little Feat with the number 8 song on my Louisiana Top 50: